How 'lemon laws' are benefiting all car buyers

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- 86 percent of us who traveled over the long weekend took a road trip. And that trip probably went much smoother than it did in the past. We've always driven, but the difference these days is the quality of our ride.

7 On Your Side's Michael Finney stopped by to talk with motorists about their cars over at a local gas station. He asked them how their cars were running. The answer was always nearly the same.

"My car runs fine," one tells tells him. Another says, "My car is running pretty good."

They share a common experience these days.

San Francisco consumer protection attorney Mark Anderson, knows about these things.

"Cars have become much more reliable," he says. "So you don't have the pattern of repeated repairs for the same defect and still not resolved."

Anderson is one of the nation's most prominent "lemon law" attorneys, representing consumers in more than 4,000 cases. "Lemon laws" are state laws that provide remedies for consumers if the product they buy turns out to be, well, a lemon. It varies state to state, but often it will allow for the consumer's compensation if the product, like a car, fails to meet standards of quality and performance. Anderson says better cars are only part of the reason attorneys are filing fewer lemon law cases. Cars have changed, and the carmakers have changed with them.

"The manufacturers, understandably, got sick of being sued," Anderson says. "If a customer calls, for example, General Motors, they will often just buy back the car. Give them their money back, according to the lemon law. They don't have to hire a lawyer and it just gets done that way."

Now there has always been some of that, but Anderson says now there is a lot of that, when car trouble calls for a lemon law solution.

"That's bad news for lawyers," Anderson says, "but that's good news for consumers."



Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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